Being Thankful

Entering this time of year is hard for me -- Once Halloween is here, life rolls on through Thanksgiving and then right into the Christmas season without even slowing down. Last year happened to be our ‘year of firsts’…the first birthday, the first Halloween, the first Thanksgiving…all without my beautiful Ben. So this year, I kind of know what to expect.

Last Thanksgiving 2016 probably hit me the hardest because it landed on the actual day that Ben came home from the NICU back in 2012. November 24. It completely knocked the wind out of me when I saw my Facebook memory “on this day” and how we were celebrating Ben’s departure from the hospital. He  was well enough and strong enough to come home to live with us on that day. I ending up writing a post about how we should all remember to be thankful for what we have – thankful that he was my son, that we had him on Earth for almost four years, thankful he brought certain people and communities into our lives.

So this year, instead of wallowing in my grief (which I could easily do every day by the way), I still find myself feeling thankful.

My two sidekicks ... may they always be as excited and enthusiastic about Ben Smiles as they are now. 

My two sidekicks ... may they always be as excited and enthusiastic about Ben Smiles as they are now. 

And this month has highlighted our mission of giving back, spreading positivity and giving gifts and hopefully creating some smiles along the way. We started with a dinner night at Ronald McDonald House in Chicago. Then we delivered gift bags to be distributed to kids in the hospital at Central Dupage Hospital. We participated in an Adapt a Toy event at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. We (as a family) took sweet treats to the Pediatrics/PICU nurses/doctors on Thanksgiving.

Then the final event this month was another Adapt A Toy in partner with Kmart and Easter Seals, allowing us to give new adapted toys and switches to eight children and their families. Every event or appearance we do allows me to talk about Ben, show off his photos/beautiful smile, connect with others that are like him and share a bit about his story. Today was no different.


I met and chatted with some really wonderful parents. I connected with a couple of additional moms with special kids who just happened to be shopping at Kmart, wondering what we were doing. Some shoppers were curious about switch toys, how they work, and why they are needed. I had a man so generously hand me a few dollars as a donation, after he ate one of the free sandwiches…hey, whatever it takes! It was a really good day.  


Jack and Lola are buddies at Easter Seals. 


This sweet one Precious holds a special place in my heart as she was the first toy recipient from Ben’s Toy Closet. 


Abby with her brand new Moana doll! Parenting Team Parenting Contributor